GPAC Football enters week four of the season with five games on the slate for this Saturday, four of them in conference play. Dakota State at Northwestern is the lone non-conference game. Also this week Briar Cliff will give us a preview of the 2013 and 2014 season by playing a home game at the Dakota Dome in Vermillion, South Dakota, against Hastings. The Chargers will play their entire home schedule in the dome in 2013 and 2014. One of the longest standing rivalires in college football renews this weekend with Nebraska Wesleyan traveling to Doane to face the Tigers. B. Lynn Fouts breaks down the games in this week's GPAC Football Preview from VSN.
A quick review of last week is in order. New #19 Dakota Wesleyan went the distance behind quarterback Joey Olson (subbing for starter Jonathan Bane), as the Tigers rallied to down Briar Cliff 24-13 at home. Dakota Wesleyan has week four off. Midland and Hastings both start the year out 2-0 as they downed Dordt 26-7 and Concordia 36-24 respectively. Northwestern took a 28-14 game from Doane to avenge last year's loss. Morningside did likewise with a 35-10 win at Nebraska Wesleyan in Lincoln, Nebraska. All five games scheduled in the league this Saturday kick-off at 1pm.
Hastings, just two points outside the NAIA's top 25 poll, heads to the Dakota Dome to play Briar Cliff. The Broncos were more explosive in week two, scoring from 49 yards or more twice and grabbing five takeaways on defense. Quarterback John Dostal had his second big game passing. Briar Cliff once again let a second half lead evaporate. With Keith Van Egdom out at quarterback, PJ Quiroga makes his second start this week. He threw for over 200 yards and two touchdowns. This Charger home game is more of a neutral side for both teams and that should make this an interesting matchup for week four.
In the grand rivalry that's Nebraska Wesleyan-Doane, the forecast calls to take cover; anything can happen when they meet. The Prairie Wolves are better than their 1-2 mark would indicate as long as they hang on to the ball; nine turnovers in their two losses. The rush defense is as sound as ever, allowing just 52 yards per game. 23rd ranked Doane went on the road for the first time and couldn't get on track on offense last Saturday. However, before the home crowd they're putting up nearly 40 points per game and quarterback Jeff Weander has been masterful. This will be the 98th meeting with the Tigers holding a 46-45-6 lead in the series.
Morningside meets Midland in mentor's match-up. Josh Gehring has won his first two games as the Warriors head coach and now goes up against his old boss in Steve Ryan. Gehring was offensive coordinator for the Mustangs 2007 through 2009 and that might give him a bit of an edge here. The Warriors defense has sparkled giving up just ten points in the two games. The offense woke up with over 400 yards in last week's win. Coach Steve Ryan seems to have his 4th ranked squad in high gear, outscoring three teams 118-24, with two of the opponents still in the rankings. Wide receiver turned quarterback Joel Nixon has thrown for ten scores so far while the defense allows less than 50 yards per game on the ground.
Dordt visits Concordia and one will end the game on a happy note. The Defenders bring in the league's second best rushing attack, 19th in the NAIA. It's all by committee as no runner is averaging more than 43 yards per game. Coach Youngblood's hope is to get more consistent quarterback play. They've only been able to muster 220 yards in the air in the three games. Concordia has put points on the board, but the defense has yet to catch up to last year's standards. Quarterback Von Thomas is 10th in the NAIA in total offense and 20th in passing.
Dakota State enters GPAC territory once again as they visit #16 Northwestern. The Trojans are 0-4 in their second season of NAIA independence and have allowed 37 points per game on defense. The Red Raiders cleared a hurdle in last week's win as the offense was efficient and linebacker Austin Janssen earned league defensive honors. Coach Achterhoff should be able to control the game with his rushing attack as both Brandon Smith and Theo Bartman average over six yards per carry.